Tell people what they should feel
When you want to get a strong emotional response from someone, just tell them how to feel. For example, you could say “Don’t be angry” or “You shouldn’t feel hurt.” Such comments just about guaranteed to trigger an angry response.
If you really want to get their goat, tell them how they are already feeling. You might also try something like “I know you are mad, but …” or “You are so defensive.” I love that last one. It almost always puts the other person on the defensive, elevating their emotions to the point that they are ready to fight.
Tell them why they did what they did (or said what they said)
This is a sure-fire way to get under someone’s skin and escalate a conflict. When you tell another person their motivation for their words and actions, you can easily spin them up. Little comments, such as “You just said that because you’re jealous” or “You did that because you want to get even with me” are great for making a conflict worse.
If you’re determined to fan their emotional flames, mix in some amateur psychoanalysis. You could say something like “You are so OCD and just need to control everything” or “You must have relationship issues or something because I get along with everyone.”
Raise your voice
If you’re ready for a good knock-down-drag-out confrontation, raise your voice. This technique is great for getting their emotional juices flowing. Add a little finger-pointing and leaning forward to the recipe, and you just might push them over the edge. It’s great fun!
Focus on the past
As you start to get into a good conflict, focus on something that they have no power to change: the past. Refuse to discuss actions for future behaviors or ways of interacting. Insist that they deconstruct and defend their past words and actions.
You don’t have to look too far in the past for this technique to be effective. You can work with what they just said. If you push hard, you can spend a good 10 or 15 minutes telling them:
- What they were feeling when they said it
- Why they said it
- What they should have said or felt instead
Since they cannot change what has already happened, you can lock them into a conflict with no way out. Raise your voice while you focus on the past, and you can have even more fun with them.
Just as you get the other person really frustrated and upset, turn and walk away. If you add some sort of sarcastic comment like “You’re always so difficult” or “I’m not going to talk with you about this anymore.” This is a fantastic tactic for keeping the conflict going for a long time.
Hopefully, you see the tongue-in-cheek message in this post. I don’t actually advocate any of these behaviors, and I work every day to keep them out of my communication practices. However, I am human, and sometimes one or two of them will creep in on me.
Take a look at yourself. Do any of these behaviors ever show up in your conflict communication style? I suggest that you work to do just the opposite of these five conflict escalation practices, even if you get a kick out of riling other people up. If you are always in some conflict or the other, you’ll gain a reputation as being difficult to work with, and that will only hurt your career.
If you want more advice for improving your communication, check out these great resources:
- 9 Communication Tips Every Young Manager Must Know
- 4 Ways to Improve Your Communication
- 3 Communication Strategies Guaranteed to Irritate Others
- Two Word Phrases for Handling Miscommunications and Conflicts
Photo credit: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/bnf-4-1182904